Commentary: Beware of PACs seeking gifts
There has been a lot of talk lately regarding the adding of a seventh member to the Board of Supervisors, mostly coming from members of Parental Alliance for Strong Schools, a group founded to increase school spending. No one can argue or debate that there has been dysfunction on the Board of Supervisors as of late. And the founders of the group/PAC called Responsible Leadership for Shenandoah County seem to think that only a seventh board member can end the dysfunction.
For the record, I am not opposed to, and am potentially in favor, of a seventh board member, provided that the seventh member be a permanent at-large chair. The concept of either splitting magisterial districts or adding an at-large member but having a rotating chair does not make a lot of sense. But having a chair who represents the entire county at large is a workable idea and one we should discuss. However, to actually believe that adding a seventh board member will end dysfunction at the county seat is a fallacy. You have dysfunction when people cannot work together. Shenandoah County has had six board members for decades now. And only when big spending liberals don’t get their way do people whine about dysfunction.
Last year, the board approved a spending bill and a minor tax rate increase with a 4-2 vote. Oddly enough there was no dysfunction during that budget process. Three members (Baker, Helsley, Neese) worked with another member (Walker) to pass something that was palatable (if not what everyone wanted) to the majority of the board. The other two members did not like this deal, but they accepted the fact that they lost the battle that year.
This is how government is supposed to work. So all of a sudden for people now to say that government is broken because they don’t like the supervisors from two or three districts is laughable on its face. What if there was a seventh member added as a chair, and this member came from the “Bailey/Shruntz wing” (a term that PASS itself invented), that would mean that the PASS-supported members would lose on a 4-3 margin. So, for my friends in the PASS organization who think that a seventh board member will be the cure to all their ills, they are painfully mistaken and being sold a bill of false goods. And given the current attitude of the citizens toward higher taxes …
Of more concern should be the fact that the new organization has formed its own Political Action Committee and is now raising money to raise voters to this issue. PACs were first formed in the mid 1970s as part of the first “campaign finance reform” law passed, and are at times shadowy organizations that are not subject to local or federal campaign laws – meaning that the PAC can spend money on anything it chooses. So if this particular PAC raises $10,000, it can spend that money in any way it chooses. Meaning if you donate $500 to Dennis Morris for supervisor, the $500 you donate must by Virginia law go to election expenses (also known as ads in the Northern Virginia Daily, radio, TV, direct mail, polls, etc). But donations to a PAC can be spent on anything the PAC chooses (also known as a trip to Atlantic City) provided the expenditure is listed. Dinners at a Ruth Chris Steakhouse are often listed as donor outreach.
Think I’m kidding? Politico Magazine did an outstanding article last year on how shadowy PACs can kill a political movement by literally getting unsuspecting voters worked up, and then taking their money and never donating it to the causes the PAC says they work for.
This article is not being written in an attack of the idea of a seventh board member for Shenandoah County. As stated above, having an at large permanent chair may be the right thing. But it is a reminder to our big spending friends to watch what you wish for because you just might get it, and to watch where you donate your money.
John Massoud is the Sixth Magisterial District GOP Chair and is the head of the Freedom Caucus of the Shenandoah County GOP.